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Suspicious Devices Sent To CNN, Clintons, Obamas, Ex AG, Maxine Waters; Trump Says Political Violence Has No Place in The United States. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired October 24, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST, NEWSROOM: Thank you for your expertise. We're going to stand by, Jim and I here. We're just about a block away from CNN, which is still closed because they're looking at what that white powder could be. We'll go back to the studio in D.C.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I do want to reset what we know right now. Any moment now the President is expected to deliver a speech where he's likely to address these devices that have been sent to public officials and offices today. A pipe bomb appeared to be mailed to the Time Warner Center, which is where CNN is in New York. And there is white powder still being tested in the mail room there. We have an image of a device addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan. However, it was found there at Time Warner Center. Also targeted, former President Obama, the Clintons and former Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as George Soros, a liberal billionaire philanthropist. You also had a device going to congressional mail facility in Maryland. Investigators say several of the packages included Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz's office in Florida as the return address. CNN was evacuated out of an abundance of caution, located in the time warner center. The New York Police Department determined that the device could not be safely defused on site. A containment vessel transported the device not too long ago to the training facility in the Bronx. Shimon, you have new information. What can you tell us?
SHIMON PROKUPESZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: This is going to be a big clue for authorities. As it relates to the device that was sent to CNN, I'm being told by law enforcement officials that that device was not mailed, police believe it was dropped off by a currier to the Columbus Circle address to CNN. That will be potentially a big clue for authorities. We don't yet know when it was dropped off. But certainly, now police have more to work with. They can ask the company, the courier, who dropped this off, how did this come to you. So that is now in full swing. That investigation of trying to determine how the courier got their hands on it, there's also going to be surveillance video from the CNN building they'll be able to look at. Just so viewers are aware, at the CNN building in New York, there's a separate area where couriers can bring stuff, when you're a messenger to drop off at the building. There's the process by which this was delivered, through this messenger center by the courier.
KEILAR: If you haven't been around New York City much, it's pretty amazing when you see couriers on bicycles, cut through traffic, get through quickly. This is a legitimate courier. This is a courier service. So, they should have some sort of trail as to who hired them for that service. Is that the expectation?
PROKUPESZ: That's the expectation. And also, the folks at CNN have that trail, too. When you're a messenger and you come to the building, whoever is receiving that package will have to note it. That's how the police know that this was delivered by a courier. They also know because there are no markings on envelope that this went through any kind of mail facility. So clearly however this was delivered to the scene and building, you know, if you read in a little bit to this, it had to be brought to this courier in New York. That's a big clue that someone perhaps in New York is walking around with these devices, that's how they're being delivered. We're told that the device that was delivered to George Soros' home was also personally delivered and put in the mailbox. Authorities there do not believe that device was mailed. So that could be an immense, immense clue here for authorities as they try to figure out who is behind this. It seems the other device, the one sent to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were sent through the mail because those were picked up by the Secret Service at the sorting facility.
KEILAR: Law enforcement are telling us in connection to a lot of these packages. I want to turn to the White House, to our senior correspondent Jeff Zeleny. This is a previously scheduled event, Jeff, can you tell us about, an event that the President is hosting but we would expect to hear from him as well on what's going on in New York and other locations in these devices, these suspicious devices, these live explosives that have been sent.
[14:05:00] JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon. I'm told the President is going to address this during his remarks. He has been giving briefings here this morning as in the west wing. He's been getting briefings from counterterrorism officials and others. Some are here in the room. The Attorney General is here in the room. The secretary of homeland security is here in the room as well. We are expecting the President to condemn these as egregious acts. The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said they were a despicable act. We do expect the President, as well as the first lady, who is speaking separately to also condemn these attacks. The question is will he call it an act of domestic terrorism as the mayor of New York City did earlier today, the national counterterrorism center has not gone that far yet. That is the question, whether the President will label it an act of domestic terrorism. Wee we know covering so many Trump press conferences, the rhetoric has gotten so heated. In Houston there was the President standing there smiling as many of his supporters are cheering and chanting. The person responsible for this we do not know. Butt President is responsible for the rhetoric here. We'll see if he steps back from the rhetoric he has been giving early on. He is still scheduled to go to Wisconsin later this evening in central Wisconsin to rally support for Republicans on the ballot there. That will be an interesting first test to see if any of the rhetoric is changing at all as we reach the midterm election cycle. But certainly, the President is expected to address this shortly here in the east room. KEILAR: And we are certainly going to be watching there along with
you, Jeff Zeleny. We see sort of this is the precursor here as people are milling about there in the east room. This was scheduled to start several minutes ago. We'll be bringing it to you live as soon as it does begin. I want to bring in White House correspondent Pamela Brown. She has been talking to her sources. Pam, what can you tell us?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We're learning from two sources about another suspicious package that has been intercepted intended for Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters. This would make the seventh suspicious package now at this point, intended this time for Maxine Waters, Democratic congresswoman. This is being analyzed by law enforcement. Yet you have another high-profile Democrat, along with the former Attorney General Eric Holder, package was sent to him at the wrong address. There was a package sent to former President Obama, Hillary Clinton and as we've been reporting George Soros and the CNN New York Bureau. At this point law enforcement believes that all of these are linked. So now we have at least seven suspicious packages, which the FBI has come out and said contained live explosive devices.
They believe they're linked based on the timing of when these packages when received, based on the packaging, the outside packaging, the similarities there. We know several of the packages had the return address of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, we don't believe she was behind that but whoever was put that as the return address. All of that is what law enforcement is looking at and then the devices inside the packages. What will happen from here is they will be sent presumably to a lab at Quantico or in Alabama once everything is rendered safe and then the FBI will look for forensic clues to find who is behind this. It will be interesting to see what the President has to say about this. He is expected to take the podium there in the east room momentarily. All we've heard from him so far essentially is a tweet that wholeheartedly agrees with what vice President said, condemning this act. We are waiting to hear from President Trump momentarily.
KEILAR: Thank you. As you were describing what will now happen with some of these devices, I want to get to Jim Maxwell, a retired FBI special agent bomb tech. He has the knowledge to tell us what is going to happen here. Jim, describe the process.
JIM MAXWELL, RETIRED FBI SPECIAL AGENT BOMB TECH: Well, initially when the New York City bomb squad arrives on scene, they have to evaluate the device. They use a number of techniques to evaluate the device. Then a decision is made how to disrupt the device. Keeping in mind that they want to preserve as much evidence as they possibly can. So, their assessment of the device, how the device is fired, what type of explosive is being used, what type of vessel it's in. Then a decision is made how to disrupt the device.
[14:10:00] Keeping in mind that they want to preserve as much evidence as they possibly can. So, their assessment of the device, how the device is fired, what type of explosive is being used, what type of vessel it's in. In this particular case from the photos I've seen, it appears to be some sort of pipe bomb, which is a very rudimentary device. But we all have to consider that if it came in the mail, it could be a victim-actuated device, it could be a timer. So, all those things are factors on how the bomb squad will render the device safe. Once they make that decision, they determine that it's safe to transport, they'll bring it up to Rodman's Neck where they can have some leeway in introducing a disrupter or remotely take the device apart.
So, this could go a number of different ways but keeping in mind the forensics here. We've come a long way in the last few years. We can extract DNA, get fingerprints, and also the components. The FBI laboratory does a wonderful job of tracing down these components, where they're made, where they're sold. Are they unique in any way? And also, the commonality of all the devices. Are they similarly constructed. I believe one of your experts spoke earlier, bomb makers have a distinct style. They do things successfully the same way over and over again. So, linking these devices together, you know, just based on the delivery points, there's a strong case here. But also linking these devices forensically, the type of wire, the type of components and so forth are also important. That's going to take some time but I think they have a very good handle on it. I'm just thankful that none of these devices initiated and there were safeguards in place, if you want to discuss those, in the mail room, with secret service. That system worked in detecting these things before they got into the hands of innocent people.
KEILAR: That certainly is a concern, Jim Maxwell. I'm going to have you stand by for us as we bring in Juliette Kayyem. Juliette, that's one of the concerns because in these cases, there were proper protocols in place to make sure, as Jim was talking about, the concern is that it could be a self-actuated device and could be triggered before it was opened. In the case of a device dropped off at George Soros' house, we don't know necessarily if there was some sort of protocol. Perhaps there is. But there's a concern as we learn about more devices, I'm sure, that some of them could go to an area that doesn't necessarily have a protocol.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. I think that's exactly right. And to -- and in transit these devices are vulnerable. Of course, we're still learning more about how these devices are transited. There's some suspicion of were they dropped off or through the mail services, depending on which device you're talking about. So just taking a step back at this stage in the day, this is a concerted attack going on right now. I know each individual piece thank goodness has not gone off, but someone sophisticated enough -- I don't want to be so smart that I'm stupid at this stage, I'm going to look at this as a totality today and we'll let the FBI figure out how much these are related but I don't believe in coincidences, that someone did wake up in the course of the last 48 hours, launch a concerted attack against individuals with ties to the Democratic party or institutions that are viewed as pro-Democratic, whether that's right or wrong.
So, in transit any one of those devices could have harmed anyone, let alone the fact that anyone opening up a package would have been harmed. I just want to say something about those procedures following on the homeland security side, the secret service. You know, there are -- an ex-President is always an ex-President. There is no private President Obama and public President Obama. So, what you did see in place was the totality of security, whether it's access to him physically, access to him through cars. We don't want to say the system works because obviously this a scary day, but those layer defenses were absolutely essential given the threat matrix against former Presidents as well as a sitting President.
[14:15:00] KEILAR: Juliette, stay with us as we continue with this breaking story. Multiple suspicious devices sent to CNN, to the Clintons, to the Obamas, to former Attorney General Eric Holder. Now as I bring in Gloria Borger to talk about this, we understand one was sent to Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters. This is significant when you see a pattern of targets here who are coincidentally, not so coincidentally rhetorical targets of President Trump's.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And Maxine Waters is one of his favorites. He actually -- and this is not my phrasing, it's his, talks about her as the very low I.Q. Maxine Waters and disparages her publicly, as well as in tweets. I just want to say one thing about this because I was actually in Missoula, Montana last week when the President praised Gianforte for body slamming a journalist.
KEILAR: Something he apologized for.
BORGER: Apologized for and had to do anger management more. And the President praised him, he's my kind of guy. When you have this kind of rhetoric, calling the media the enemy of the people, CNN fake news constantly, people listen to that. I remember the President's speech after Steve Scalise got shot. And it was great. It was about sort of bipartisanship and I know he's doing a bipartisan thing today on opioids and there will be Democrats in the room and Melania Trump will be in the room. And so, after Steve Scalise was shot in that baseball game, we heard the President talk about the parties working together and everything else when they had that game at Nationals Park. And I'm sure he'll do that again today.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: KEILAR: Can I just interrupt for a second. I think one of the questions about all this is why is it the White House doesn't get it right initially?
GREGORY: Sarah Sanders, the President's spokeswoman, her first reaction to this was to condemn the acts of violence against former elected officials, never mentioned CNN.
BORGER: She did later.
GREGORY: That initial mindset makes you wonder why can't they get it right? It's outrageous the same people who attack CNN mercilessly can't get it right. Ivanka Trump had no problem getting it right in her first public tweet about this. But you have the president's Laura Trump on behalf of the campaign.
KEILAR: The daughter in law. GREGORY: Two hours after this condemned CNN so this is a moment for the President to think in ways I don't think he often thinks, to think bigger than himself. This is an attack on the presidency, it's an attack on America when you have former Presidents who are attacked. He's one of them and they are just like him.
BORGER: I don't think he thinks he's one of them. That's the issue.
GREGORY: And understanding that -- forgive me for interrupting. This is what we're setting up here waiting for the President. Let me just tell you something, the obvious statement here, the politics around this are going to go nuts here in the next few hours with cable news taking over.
KEILAR: And we see the President and people in the room standing. Let's listen.
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: Good afternoon. Please sit down. Before I begin, I want to take a moment to talk about today's news and the attempted attacks on President Clinton, President Obama, their families, public officials, individuals and organizations. We cannot tolerate those cowardly attacks and I strongly condemn all who choose violence. I'm grateful to the Secret Service as well as the federal and local law enforcement for all they do on a daily basis to keep us safe and encourage people across the country to choose kindness over hatred.
[14:20:00] I want to welcome you all to the White House, to reflect on the progress this administration has made in tackling the opioid crisis, and more importantly to look ahead at the work still to be done. We are here to talk about the continued actions we are taking to combat the opioid epidemic, which my husband will talk about in a few minutes. I must say I'm proud of our President and the work being done in the White House and across so many agencies to help those affected by drug abuse and addiction. Which my husband will talk about in a few minutes. I must say I'm proud of our President and the work being done in the White House and across so many agencies to help those affected by drug abuse and addiction.
Just last week I visited Thomas Jefferson University Hospital to learn about their maternal addiction treatment, education and research program called matter. This program supports families and babies born with neonatal absence syndrome, providing mothers with the tools they need to help become successful parents. My campaign Be Best is committed to helping children with the many issues they face as they grow up. And sadly, drug abuse is one of those issues. Be Best will continue to shine a light on successful programs like matter that demonstrate positive results for children. Over the past year I have traveled both nationally and internationally learning about many of the programs offered through private organizations, schools and hospitals which are meant to help children and families as they deal with drug addiction.
What I constantly hear is the need for support at all levels. Law enforcement needs our support and the resources necessary to stop criminals from putting drugs on the streets. Families need the resources to get treatment and follow-up care for loved ones. Those who are addicted need the support, resources and guidance to know they are fighting a disease and should not be ashamed. Young mothers need the support necessary to not only beat their addiction but get the tools need to become successful parents. Babies born addicted need the resources for treatment but also need follow-up care for years to come.
I was honored to be part of a roundtable comprised of several experts at Thomas Jefferson university hospital that was convened to help with the design of a new initiative the Department of Health and Human Services is working on to measure the long-term health outcomes and needs of infants suffering from neonatal absence syndrome. As a nation we must come together to fight this epidemic by providing as many resources as possible, and I know that as long as my husband is in office, this will remain a priority. Fighting opioid abuse goes across all party lines. Thank you all for being here and being part of the fight to end this epidemic. It is now my honor to introduce the President of the United States.
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I want to thank you very much, Melania. I know how hard you've worked on this. That's just one of many languages that you know. It's just amazing the way that you can do it. Thank you very much, darling. Appreciate it. Also, I want to thank Mrs. Pence for being here. You have been just so terrific working alongside of our great vice President and thank you very much, Karen. Really appreciate it.
[14:25:00] I'd like to begin today's remarks by providing an update on the suspicious packages and devices mailed to current and former high- ranking government officials. The safety of the American people is my highest and absolute priority. I have just concluded a briefing with the FBI, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland security and U.S. Secret Service. As we speak, the packages are being inspected by top explosive expert and a major federal investigation is now under way. The full weight of our government is being deployed to conduct this investigation and bring those responsible for these despicable acts to justice. We will spare no resources or expense in this effort, and I just want to tell you that in these times we have to unify, we have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.
I thank you very much. Thank you. It's a very bipartisan statement, I can tell you from both sides we both agree on that. This egregious conduct is abhorrent to everything we hold dear and sacred as Americans. My administration will provide additional updates as they become available. I just want to thank everybody for their understanding. We're extremely angry, upset, unhappy about what witnessed this morning, and we will get to the bottom of it. We're gathered together today to address America's drug and opioid crisis.
KEILAR: I want to bring in my panel to talk about this, the President addressing these multiple as he put it suspicious packages and devices, we know at least some of them live explosive devices, including the one sent to CNN, the one with the name of the former CIA Director John Brennan's name on it. Certainly, you have seen how many Presidents and high-ranking public officials have responded in situations like this. We hear certainly the mayor of New York City, the governor of New York calling this terrorism. What were you expecting? Anything that stood out to you from the President here?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I thought it was the absolute bare minimum that the American people could expect from the President to say given the circumstances of multiple devices being sent to former Presidents, prominent people and former administration officials and the news media and CNN. So, I thought it was the bare minimum. I thought he should have spoken first. It would have been more appropriate to have him come out first given that the entire morning has been spent watching the CNN news bureau out from their office in New York and reporting from a street corner. I think that would have been more appropriate. But it also is hard to ignore the fact that the President -- everybody knows that the President is the one who has contributed and is the primary proponent behind the American political discourse. So I am glad that he said the limited statement that he said in terms of supporting law enforcement and condemning the acts of political violence that seem to be taking place and coming out over the last couple days and particularly today, but it also matters what he does next, what he does at his rally tonight and what him and his political allies do continuing in terms of their political engagement.
KEILAR: He'll be in Wisconsin tonight. I'm hoping, David, you can compare this to what you've seen in the past, other government responses to say the anthrax attacks. How does this initial response differ from what we heard in that case and 9/11.
GREGORY: I think the President said the right things, condemned acts of political violence, he talked about bipartisan and that response is and should be and we need unity in the country. But what leaves me wanting, like Carrie, I just wish he could have said some other things. In the context of CNN being targeted here as well, in the context of so much animus that he himself has against CNN and other news outlets to make a point about the fact that violence directed toward the news media is unacceptable.
[14:30:00] A high-profile news journalist was just murdered in turkey by the Saudis. We've been talking about this, he's been talking about it for the past two weeks. It's imperative he say that. I wish this President could say this is a tough time, we are after each other with very tough things to say about each other and the direction of the country but this is different, this is a level of violence that cannot be tolerated, its attack on all of us. He just doesn't seem to be able to go that far.
KEILAR: We heard the first lady saying it was Obama, Clinton -- officials, individuals and organizations --
KEILAR: Maybe there's information we do not know.